It comes as no secret that we are a bit of a geeky family, but we take it to new heights when it comes to anything Marvel Comics. I’m fairly certain my son’s act of teenage rebellion will probably be dressing up as Superman for Comic Con. Despite this obsession, neither myself or my husband knows much about Dr Stephen Strange. I much prefer my guardians to be galaxy based than cosmic, but being the card carrying Cumberbitch that I am, I felt the need to make the acquaintance of Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme.
So Who Is Doctor Strange Anyway?
Doctor Stephen Strange is a talented if extremely egotistical neurosurgeon working in New York. He is devastated when a car accident causes severe nerve damage in his hands, and he learns he can never operate again. He searches the world for a cure, finding instead the Ancient One, who teaches him to put his ego aside and fight for something bigger than himself. Oh and she also teaches him to do magic and travel between dimensions.
Do I Have To Watch The Other Movies First?
Nope. Doctor Strange is fairly stand alone and doesn’t rely on the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Other than a couple of throw away lines and an familiar face in the end credits sequence, there’s no connection to the larger MCU. It’s a great entry point for someone who isn’t all that familiar.
What I Loved
The trailers promised some pretty amazing visuals and the movie definitely delivered. It’s a movie that seems custom built for viewing in 3D. I was concerned that the whole thing would seem a little Inception-y but it reminded me more of a surrealist painting than Chris Nolan.
Let’s talk casting. There was a lot of whitewashing controversy during production due to Tilda Swinton’s being cast as The Ancient One, traditionally an Asian male. The filmmakers have stated that they chose this avenue because The Ancient One is a racist caricature in the comics and they were concerned about stereotyping. When I watched the trailer, the presence of Swinton niggled because she just didn’t seem to fit but this didn’t bother me at all watching the movie because she completely owns it. Swinton alternates between seeming impossibly old and impishly young and embodies everything the character is. Her hand movements are so graceful she looks computer generated, making everyone else look impossibly clumsy in comparison. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the role now I’ve seen her play it.
Even though the protagonist of this movie is another white male, the main cast is relatively diverse. The character of Strange’s personal valet Wong was beefed up into a take-no-nonsense librarian who regularly and hilariously puts Strange back in his place and the traditionally white Mordo was played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. While Mordo could have felt like the token black sidekick, the script and direction made no bones about the fact that he was most definitely the Master of the two, and I loved that he had his own arc. Ejiofor has fantastic chemistry with Cumberbatch and so their scenes together were probably my favourites of the film.
What I Didn’t Love
I’ve talked about Marvel’s disposable villain problem before, and here we are again. Kaecilius has a tragic backstory that is only hinted at and a predilection for long explanatory monologues and that’s it. The MCU has gotten into a bad habit of taking great actors like Mads Mikkelsen and shoving them into these thankless one outing roles. Marvel desperately needs another Loki, and without giving too much away, it appears Kaecilius has been sacrificed on the alter of making that happen.
Marvel Studios has never passed the Bechdel test on anything other than a technicality and Doctor Strange is no exception. Rachel McAdams is a fantastic actress and she is criminally underused in this film. Her ER doc is supposed to ground the film’s more fantastical elements, so there’s not really much for her to do other than be amazed. Normally I could just sort of take it as given that a Marvel love interest would be underdeveloped but a great scene between McAdams and an astrally projected Strange made me ache for her to be more than just a glorified cameo.
I thoroughly enjoyed Doctor Strange and while it didn’t knock Guardians of the Galaxy off its perch as my favourite Marvel movie, it’s a very close second. The dimensional travel was stunningly beautiful and looks truly incredible on the big screen. This is one you shouldn’t wait to watch at home. Go see it, it’s well worth organising childcare for.(4.5 / 5)
Are you planning on heading to the movies to check out Doctor Strange? What was the last movie you saw at the cinemas?